RALEIGH, N.C., Jan. 15 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama Wednesday urged Congress to "do the right thing" and extend unemployment insurance for long-term jobless U.S. workers.
The president told an audience at North Carolina State University in Raleigh long-term unemployment persists five years after the worst recession since the Great Depression, and the middle class had been "getting hit on the chin for years before that," with wages stagnating while the cost of living rose.
He said the job market "is still tough in pockets around the country and people need support, a little help so they can look after their families while they're looking for a new job.
"So Congress should do the right thing and extend this vital lifeline for millions of Americans," Obama said during a speech in which he announced formation of a new public-private manufacturing institute.
"Where I can act without Congress, I'm going to do so," the president said.
Administration officials said the plan to establish more private-public partnerships is part of a larger plan for the White House to use all its resources to grow the economy, The Hill reported.
Speaking with reporters aboard Air Force One Wednesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the administration was disappointed with the Senate's failure Wednesday to extend unemployment insurance benefits for the long-term unemployed.
"It's very frustrating when, again, the previous president, a Republican, signed similar extensions five times without offsets," Carney said. "And [Senate] Majority Leader Senator Reid has gone quite a distance to try to accommodate the concerns of Republicans who have shown a desire and an interest in extending these benefits when it comes to offsets and when it comes to offering amendments."
Congressional Republicans have maintained the cost of providing extended unemployment benefits must be offset by cuts in other spending.